Monday, December 12, 2011

Someday I'll believe it

I have never been a good exerciser. The idea of just going out for a run or a bike "just cuz" is a phenomenon I truly do not understand. I must have a goal, and aim. In high school, I was very fit due to the fact that I was on the basketball team. When I quit senior year (jerkwad for a coach), I became a slug. Now I am fit because I sign up for races.

But the reality of the matter? I believe I am a slug. This is what I truly think in my inner heart of hearts. I have needed to lose weight in the past, I have become a post-partum mush ball in the past. I simply have come to believe that the fit Becca is the mirage with the chubby one always lurking in the background.

However, I might just have done this triathlon thing long enough now to slowly turn that tide. I have now been consistently exercising for 2.5 years. And my new coach, in the middle of a conversation about my training said "... and you are clearly athletic...."


I am ?

I actually told him that I didn't believe him. And his response? "I wouldn't be you coach if I didn't truly think that."

And then yesterday, I was meeting the mom of one of Spencer's friends and she asked me if I cross-country skied. When I said no, she said "Well what do you do? You clearly do something."


I do?

So maybe, just maybe, I can start to see myself through the eyes of others. If I do that long enough, I might just start seeing it myself.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not Fair

There were tears this morning.

Tears at the great injustices of living in this house.

Cal didn't get any cake. Mind you, this is something that occurred 2 days ago. But I think he saw the clean pan and realized it was gone for good. He didn't eat his dinner, so he didn't get any of the scrumptious chocolate yumminess I had made. At the time, he seemed OK with it.

You see, Cal doesn't eat dinner. He just doesn't find that particular meal to ever be to his liking. This morning, the tears were mixed with the heave sentance "but.... You.... don't.... make.... what... I... Liiiiiiiiiike....booohoohoohoo."

Please picture my face looking completely bored and a little irritated as I watch this scene.

Can you imagine a worse home to live in? I mean, seriously, someone call CPS.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend Bliss

This may have been the best weekend I have had in years. Omar and I looked at each other Saturday morning and realized we had nothing on the schedule. NOTHING. This simply never happens. There is always a beer thing or a nice 8hrs of ER, or a cabin trip, or a this or a that.

Max had skiing, but that was it.

It was so completely lovely. Omar and I decided it was time to cook ourselves silly. Yesterday's concoctions included:

- Turkey noodle soup
- Brisket Chili
- Prep for my favorite breakfast Sunday, Chiliquiles.
- Chicken Marsala with Orzo
- Braised Broccoli Rabe
- Flourless chocolate cake with Molten lava top

As we cooked, fluffy snow started to fall and the kids piled outside to sled in the back yard. We put a fire in the fire place and got the tunes pumping. We then fed the final 3 items on that food list to our dear friends who have unfortunately been dealing with TWO broken wrists from one snowboarding fall. That's right, BOTH of the wrists.

We are not above Surly through a straw.

Today, we pretty much beached ourselves with the kids and watched the Vikings get one stop closer to a high draft pick. Sometimes, life is just awesome.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Prepare your stomachs

Ok, I know they say it can happen to any family. I know they say that it has nothing to do with hygiene. I know that most of my friends have gone through this at one time or another. But in 39 years of living on this planet, I have never dealt with this.

School Nurse: "Hi Rebecca. Max just came into the office and said a bug fell off his head."
Me: ".... uh...."
School Nurse: "So I did take a look and he has lice."
Me: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggh!!!! (Shutter, spit out my coffee, convulse) No no no no no no no......"

So, after vomiting a little in my mouth, I picked him up from school, learned the ins and outs of shampooing and nit picking, and had the pleasure of calling all of my family AND the friend who had him over for a sleepover last week. That, by the way, is a really fun phone call. Did I mention this kid has the longest hair of any of Max's friends? Of course he does. And, of course, it was just Thanksgiving - that annual time of gathering with family and friends to share infestations.

Then Cal and Spence came home from school. "Please dear lord, let them be in the clear... please please please."

No such luck.

This is what my bathroom floor looked like 20 minutes later.

Crew cuts are the new black, don't ya know? And I still have to pick through the little bit of hair that is left looking for EGGS of lice. So, so, so, so gross.

Omar's silver lining to this? He finally got to shave his head again despite my previous protestations, and he found something that even I think is disgusting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Leo and Calvin were playing around with a wig that we had in our costume box. Leo, being three, asked Calvin the ever present "Why?"

Calvin's answer: "You put on a wig when you are trying to keep your bald hairs secret."

pretty good answer....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

No treat, all trick

So, this disgusting little thing used to be a green koosh ball. At least that's what I think it is. How much do you think a koosh ball costs these days? Well let me tell ya. It costs:

- one visit to the regular vet
- one visit to the emergency vet
- one ultrasound
- one xray
- two IV's
- one go round of anesthesia
- intraabdominal surgery at 2am to retrieve koosh from small intestine
- a morphine drip
- anti-vomit medication
- 48 hours in the hospital
- one night of missing kids trick or treat
- one Elizabethan collar

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don't encourage him

I admit it, I kinda like having a small celebrity for a husband. It's fun when people say "You are married to OMAR?!?!?" when it turns out they are big Surly fans. There is a sense of pride that he is MY man.

But now things have gone too far.

I was getting a cup of coffee the other day, wearing my Surly hat, when the gal ringing me up says "Is that a Surly hat?" Yes, yes it is. That's why it says "Surly" on it...

She then proceeds to ask about whether I went to Darkness Day or not, and how her boyfriend was there, and how he is such a big fan. I said "No, I wasn't able to make it to Darkness Day this year because I was working. But I have been in the past. My husband is actually the founder of Surly."

"REALLY?! Oh, my boyfriend is going to freak out that I met you! Omar's your husband? And he is a doctor, too, right?"


No he is not.

That is me.

I am the doctor.

This is truly getting out of hand....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Everyone knows puppies like to chew on stuff. And not just any stuff. Usually the stuff you mostly don't want them to chew on.

Nyla-bones? How did that company every get big? Ruby looks down her nose at every one of their products with a "you must be kidding" look in her eye. Not that that stopped me from buying every style and texture before abandoning them (Ah ha... THAT's how they stay in business..).

Raw hides are great, but with chompers like this little lady, they last 8 minutes tops. Devoured.

So I was pretty stoked that our Pet Smart turned me on to Bully Sticks. Long, very dried out animal product that Ruby takes DAYS to get rid of, even with very aggressive hours of chewing. I have bought many packages of these now, and had decided they were the chew toy of choice for an Ansari pooch.

Then Omar had to go and look a little more carefully. Small print on the bag "Contains: Bull Pizzle"

So, in other words, we have multiple dried up bull penis's laying around the house in various stages of gnawed consumption.

'Cause that's what this house really needed. More penises.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Omar, these boys are all yours

Sometimes I forget that the genetic material that went into these boys of ours is consistent, consistent stuff. When you look at your own kids every day you see their differences and their unique qualities, not their similarities.

I had to laugh, however, yesterday when I took Max to football practice with brothers in tow. One of his teammates looked into our car after Max had already hit the field and said "Hi Max!" to Calvin. Another kid saw Leo and ran out to Max to say "Your baby brother looks exactly like you!" Max's buddies seemed to think our car full of Ansaris was some sort of cool circus trick.

For example, Leo thinks this is him. It is not:

I will be curious to see what the years do....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Coming soon to a Christmas photo near you!

1) Omar with a large scratch on his nose from a boisterous puppy greeting
2) Leo with a black eye from whacking Clyde's head on the trampoline
3) Calvin with a cut under his eye from a playful game of "punch your brother" by Leo

Seriously, THIS is the week we have our annual photo session scheduled? Really? I think I'm going to buy boxing gloves for the photos and just run with it...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I have never thought of myself as a yeller. Loud? Sure. Boisterous? It has been said. But a yeller? No.

Then I had 4 children.

A few years ago, my friend Mary was telling me how she felt like all she did was yell at her kids. I just nodded, silently, thinking "well, yelling doesn't work, everyone knows that. I don't yell at my kids. And I won't. " And that was the adorable little thinking of a mother of 3, 2 of whom were still learning how to talk.

Now, I think I have her beat. Big time.

For one thing, this house is VERY VERY LOUD. Shouting is the norm simply to be heard. And the 4th little rug rat? He's the loudest of the bunch. Why wouldn't he be? He has grown up thinking decibel levels comparable to a small jet engine are the norm.

But volume alone isn't the source of the trouble. Anger and frustration has found it's way to my internal volume control. I was found yelling at Calvin last night in a room with just the two of us because he had pushed my buttons so completely and thoroughly. See, he has decided that he will simply do things his way. This will be achieved either by ignoring my instructions or outright arguing with me. I mean, come on. Why would he get ready for bed when asked? That is completely unreasonable.

Or another highlight from yesterday: I find Cal riding a friend's scooter in the middle of the road. I tell him he can't do this.
"But MOM!!!! Alexi SAID I could!!"
"Calvin, you can't play in the street."
"Calvin, I heard what you said. But I am telling you that you can't. You could get hit by a car." "BUT MOMMMMMM!!"
(Cue the crazy Howard Dean scream)

How did I get here? I AM NOT A YELLER. Everyone knows there is no theory of parenting based on screaming. "Yelling: How to Raise Caring, Responsible Children by Acting like a Howler Monkey." Not a bestseller...

So, I think it's time to take up meditation. Or install acoustic panels over our new remodeled home. Or study the work of Yoda. I don't know....

Friday, September 23, 2011

This one has it figured out

I have gone through many a battle as a mother for the last 9 years. I have done the terrible two's 4 times now, and there are endless variations of how one ends up on time out. I have heard many a scheme and deflected many a child-tactic to get their way.

I have been climbed like a mountain so many times I feel like Everest's got nothin' on me. I have had 4 boys simultaneously clawing at me, each vying for 100% of my attention. Each day brings a new way of dealing with it (some days are much more Parent Magazine approved than others...).

And just as I have strategies to deal with 4 boys, so do they for dealing with having just one mom. Max is earnest. Cal plays aloof but then wants one-on-one time. Spence just keeps climbing me... persistence has to pay off at some point, right? But it's #4 who played the trump card last night.

As has been universally true with each son, my lap is the preferred place to sit during dinner. It is also forbidden. I DON'T DO UPPIES WHEN I AM EATING. Period. No exceptions.

Leo, non-plussed with dinner last night, announces is is done about 3.4 minutes into the meal, and then he starts the dinner table satellite circles, gravitating towards my lap with each pass. As always, I quoted the above rule.

So he looks at me with bassett hound eyes and says "But I love you."

That was a new one. Dagger straight to the heart. How do you not suck that little kid up in an octopus style hug and just kiss him from head to toe??? I mean, come on!

I still made him wait till I was done eating, but MAN did he pull out a trick none of the others have figured out!

I am in trouble.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No more terrible two's

My sweet baby boy turned three on Friday.


I know that still sounds like an itty bitty kid in the big scheme of life, but 3 is no baby either. I don't have any babies. I have all big boys now. It kinda brings a tear to my eye (or is that a tear of rage at telling these boys to stop yelling for the berjillionth time today....?).

I don't know that I will ever stop feeling like he is my baby. Leo, my man, you are an extremely happy, joyful and funny little boy. You find humor in the most basic of things, which brings laughs to the rest of us. You are kind to your brothers and your friends. You already have empathy, which is a lovely, loverly characteristic. Our family would never have been complete without you.

I love you so much little man. Welcome to Three!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


... and with that, school begins.

The relief in my voice is as if I don't have my kids in summer camp every day. I know that there are other mothers with much more reason to be ecstatic that I, but I do love the start of school.

There is a structure and rhythm to it that is calming. It means fall is here, and I truly love fall. Once I get over the fact that summer is over, I fully embrace the fleece weather and sound of crunching leaves. Football is starting tonight, and soon a fire in the fireplace will be quite lovely.

So, here's to the start of yet another school year and all that comes with it.

Waiting for the bus at the Boz's

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My baby

These days, when I refer to "my baby," Leo is the one that everyone thinks of. Hell, even LEO thinks of Leo, frequently referring to himself as "you baby." He even gets it confused sometimes and says "Mama, you MY baby."

But the original baby, of course, is Max. He was the original Small Guy Small Fry. He is the one that got this whole hormone festival of mommahood thrust into the hyperdrive, resulting in a family of 6. But he is no baby anymore. My original baby started football last week. This is what my baby is looking like these days.

I always swore I wouldn't let my boys play football. Too dangerous, right? But, due to a stroke of luck/reality for them, I became an ER doctor. And ya know what? I have taken care of ONE football related injury. One. I have been doing this now for 10 years (in contrast, I would now NEVER let my boys play hockey), so it appear my nightmares of maimed and bloodied children are a little overblown.

But the true horror of football? The gear. Now, I have never done this before, but am I supposed to remove the pads of the pants before washing? 'Cause I might just lose my mind (as if I wasn't at the brink already) if that is the routine. There are 7 pads in a pair of pants. Each a specific side and shape and curvature. All of which need to be placed while the pants are inside out. After today's laundry test of doom, I felt like I would rather take the MCAT again.

And the cup? I firmly believe I should have nothing to do with that. Not centrally, not peripherally, not in any way at all. However, given that my husband didn't do contact sports himself, this is a land of mystery to him as well. So, he actually turned to me last week and asked "What kind of underwear should I buy for Max to wear with his cup?" REALLY?!? You are asking ME? Dude, I'm not a dude! I don't have the gear that requires buying the gear! You MUST be kidding!

But Max made it to (and through) the first practice, all appropriate gear present and accounted for. And he continues to like it even after being tackled. I just make one request... Please don't crush my Small Guy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Must we?

Ah, developmental stages. They are grand, aren't they? Like the fact that at the beginning of 1st grade, it's APPROPRIATE for the little 6 year olds in my life to think about nothing but themselves and not others. It's natural for them to want the biggest treat without offering it to others.

I can deal with that and try to roll with it.

But why must we go through to "I am refusing to get dressed" stage with the 2 1/2 year old? Why, oh why is that necessary. Is there some magical brain synapse that will only form if this daily battle is fought? Must there be screams of protest when daddy attempts to assist instead of mommy? This is one little step in the pediatric yellow brick road that I would rather skip.

But, I am not above bribery. Today, we had great happiness in the land because a jelly bean was promised if Leo could get 'er done without assistance. And since no good dead goes unpunished, I was rewarded for this stroke of genius with 3 older boys looking at me with outstretched hands as well. "We got dressed all by ourselves too mom...."

Sure! Jelly beans for all. Can we keep it a secret, however, that this was after a breakfast comprised of the donuts Mary brought over...?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2yr old talk

Leo is the master of the mixed up vowel sounds.

On Friday, he is going to have a Jabama party at daycare. I mean, who wouldn't want to go to school in their jabamas?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New member of the family

Now that we have successfully surprised my brother's family, I can post pictures of our new family member! (You know, cause we got nothin' else to do....)


Max taking Spencer for a walk...

Dock Dog

Friday, July 29, 2011

Water sounds

The lesson of the day? When you hear the sound of water that just seem a little odd, you really should investigate sooner than later.

It sounds like the bathroom sink, but louder.

It's just the bathroom sink, right?

Well, kind of. What that noise is is the bathroom sink when a milk jug has been forced under the spigot by a 2 year old, turned on at a high rate of fill, overflowed the jug, and is now shooting up onto the mirror, filling the countertop, and flooding the floor and the cabinetry under the sink.

That's what that sound is.

Oh, and don't forget the sounds of the 2 year old running around with a sopping wet hand towel saying "I'm cleaning it up, mama! I'm cleaning it up!" At least he tried...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chisago - The Half Ironman

Well, check it off the list!

I am, officially, a Half Ironman finisher. And you know what? It wasn't that bad.Now don't get me wrong. I don't know if I will ever do it again! I might, once I have fewer small children in my daily routine, but not soon. It's gonna be a long post, but here is how it all played out.After the kids race (see below), the kids all head home and Jon, Nathan and I headed to our hotel rooms to start the long wait until game time. We hung out in their room, talked about the race and other things, and just generally tried to stay low key. We had dinner at the local "supper club" which was characterize not only with steak and mashed potatoes, but also potato skins and jalepeno poppers. Nathan's "gravy" could be best described as being a member of the Jello family, but we all left with full bellies and a need to try to get to bed early.

The alarm went off at 4:20 after a fitful night of sleep. We headed towards the race at 5am because Jon is a little nutty about getting there early. It turns out this was wise, because we got a little lost. We set up all of our stuff in the transition area and donned the wet suits.



We were all ready when the games began and I stood on the beach at 6:50 trying to just remember the basics: stay calm, race your own race, don't go out too fast.

At 7:07, I entered the water. It was incredibly foggy. I knew what the course looked like from the day before, but for the entirety of the race you could barely see the very next buoy, nothing more. So after a while, I started saying to myself "the next one is the turn around..." and then I realized there was one more. Rinse and repeat 4 or 5 more times. FINALLY we were turning around, and the rest of the swim went quickly. 42 minutes after I set in, I was running up the beach toward my bike. I felt great.I set out on the ride in what was still a cool and gray morning. I wasn't cold, but any cooler would have been bordering on uncomfortable. This was FAR preferable to the scorching heat that had been leading up the race. Around mile 13 I saw a sign for one of the Chisago county roads and just seeing the word "Chisago" made me have a complete reality check. This wasn't just some practice ride. THIS was my half Ironman. I was THERE. I was doing this, and felt really good! Then I burst into tears.I pulled myself together and carried on. I had to stare fully in the face of the fact that I am not a fast cyclist. I was passed again and again and again. And I just let it go. I had to ride MY race, not anyone else's, and I still had 13miles to run. If I started trying to bust out some fast bike split time, my goose would be cooked on the run. So, I just kept on pedaling. Nathan came up behind me around mile 17, and it was great to see his smiling and ever-positive face. By mile 28, I could tell myself it was half behind me. There were some hills in the 30's, but nothing terrible. Erika was screaming cheers unexpectedly at mile 37. And once you are in the 40's, its just a short ride to 56. This is when I started singing the internal praises of Chamois Butter (if you don't know why I say this, you probably don't want the details), and looking forward to seeing my hubby back at the transition area. As I headed up the hill I could see Omar, Adam and Erika cheering me on, and in a total of 3hr 22min, I climbed off my bike and started the run.

My coach had told me to consciously hold back for the first 6 miles. I have run 8:50's for 6miles in the past, but there was no way I could hold that, so I pulled back to 9:30's even though 9's were what I was leaning towards. This is when the money for a coach pays off! I felt great for the first 3 miles, started getting a bit tired for the next 3, hung tough for the next 3, and then really wanted to be done. The problem with splitting a 13.1 mile race into 3 mile chunks is the final 4.1! At mile 9, that 4 more just got in my head. I was tired, took a little more walk time at the water breaks, but just wanted to get to the school. The school, you see, is the turnaround point for the must shorter Sprint race that I have done 3 times before. It means you are only 1.5 miles away from the finish.

Omar was waiting at ~3/4 miles left and ran the next 800 yards with me. At first he was asking me questions, and I just said "Talk to me. Tell me about our kiddos this morning..." So I listened as he talked. He had to peel off as I entered the park, and Jon was yelling awesome encouragement from the sidelines. As I rounded the corner, I could hear the neighbors see me and start yelling. I was then running a path that I have envisioned SOOO many times while training: round the playground, up the hill, hairpin turn and to the finish line.

Then I burst into tears again.

I did it. 6:26:07. Mary was on top of me immediately, hugging that incredibly sweaty body of mine and giving me so much praise. It was a truly spectacular feeling. After some post race hanging out, a Smitty's burger and a FANTASTIC shower, we all headed to Mary's to rest our sore bodies, eat pulled pork, slaw and cake, and celebrate. Thank you Mary! You are such a wonderful friend and inspiration to us all.

So much work, so many hours. And I did it. In some ways I almost don't believe I actually did it. I have always felt like a dabbler in this whole sport. But I guess I can officially say I am a triathlete now, straight up.

For more photos, link to:

Chisago - The kids edition

Ah, the Chisago Kid's Triathlon. It always seems like such a good idea...

This year, as last, made me wonder why I continue to invite my kids to this brand of crazy, but at least 25% of my children really enjoy it! Here's how Saturday unfurled itself 24 hours before my own race:

I insisted on Friday that every kid show me they were competent enough on their bikes to be safe to race. This meant show me you can turn, brake and pedal without putting yourself of anyone else in danger. I knew Cal was a lock already, Max was pretty darn solid but I mostly just wanted him to practice, and Spence was the question mark. Maybe, maybe not. He mostly just likes to ride down the hill on his Stryder (pedaless) bike and stop with his feet Fred Flintstone style. He was doing so so well at first with the pedals, but then had a bobble, a melt down and a refusal to try again, screeching "the bike doesn't work!!" His brothers continued for ~25 more minutes, but I couldn't convince him to get back on.

So, after offering to put the training wheels back on for the race and being instantly dismissed, Spence was out. This didn't stop tears that night or the next morning, but when 7:30am rolled around, Max, Calvin and I were out the door. We had heard there might be a storm, but it looked great when we left and the whole neighborhood decided to go for it.

By the time we made it to registration at 8:30, they take my money because the weather had taken such a turn that they had to close up the tents. As we all took shelter under the picnic structure as the sky blackened and the winds started scaring the children. We were then evacuated to the local Community Center while they postponed the race. This was EXACTLY the way we all hoped the day would go!

After an hour or so, they announced the race was being postponed until noon, and we were free to leave and come back. So, all 24 neighborhood kids and parents took our damp selves over to a local restaurant for brunch.

By the time noon rolled around, it was perfect weather. Sun, cool-ish temps and kids ready to go.

Thankfully, they did the young kids first this year, so Calvin was off shortly after noon. He, as he did last year, had a BLAST. He was focused, determined, and came home with the 3rd place trophy in his age group.

I had cheered Cal to the finish line and turned around just in time to see Max running up the hill from the beach, done with the "swim" (otherwise known as a short run in waist-high water) and was heading for the bike. After age 7, parents can't help. He was on his own to find his bike, put on his socks (which he ended up skipping) and helmet, and get out of the transition area properly. I couldn't see what the hangup was, but he was one of the last out. He did the bike, which is a major accomplishment, then BOOKED out of transition on the run. It never occurred to me to discuss pacing with the kid. He literally left his bike in a dead sprint, little arms pumping up and down, face steely. The problem? The run for his age group isn't short. I think it was half a mile. The next time I saw him, he was walking, clutching his side stitch and when I got next to him to encourage him, he felt like he was going to barf. He was also very well aware of the fact that no one was behind him. I walked the last 300 yards with him, and tried to not let me heart break as he walked over the finish line near tears.

But he finished. He did it. He was part of the group shot at the end that eluded him last year. It seems like the main purpose of sports for kids, whether it be team or individual, is a safe place for some pretty tough life lessons. For Spence: If you give up, you can't move forward. For Cal: Work hard and you will be rewarded. For Max: You finish what you start, even if the end result isn't what you were hoping for. Watching his bro and many neighbors get a trophy was tough on my eldest. But in an interesting twist, every family from the 'hood had one (or more) kid walk home with a trophy while another in the family didn't. Sometimes life is like that. And that's ok.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

All that's left...

... is the race.

I just wrapped up my last real exercise before I try to kick the Chisago Half Ironman in the teeth on Sunday. A little dip in the lake tomorrow and then nothing but nervous energy as I pack my things up and try to make sure I have everything I need. Saturday, the kids are doing the little-people triathlon (let's hope it goes better than last year), then Omar scoops up the hopefully joyous children, takes them home, and I stay there to stew in my juices until morning. Thankfully, Nathan and Jon will be there with me, and I am very much looking forward to dinner with these wonderful friends, ruminating over our shared 1st journey to this point. Our spouses will be overjoyed to not be subjected to this full-frontal triathlon talk-fest that is going to ensue (as they have been for the last 5 months).

Due to the fact I have a watch that tracks my every movement, I can tell you what it takes to get to this point. I have biked or run my body 1398.9 miles since 3/1, and this doesn't count swimming (the watch has a little trouble logging those miles). For fun, I just looked on mapquest, and that's 46 mile MORE than it would take to get to my brother's house in Worcester, Massachusetts from my garage. I have spent 109:38 hours accomplishing all of these tasks.

I have tried not to drive Mary crazy with my questions or my intermittently foul attitude about this entire brand of mental illness. Mary, who I both thank and blame for all of this! She, by the way, qualified last weekend to go to Las Vegas and compete in the Half Ironman World Championships. My goals are a little less lofty, but we'll see if I come home with anything.

So, wish me luck! Think good thoughts as I swim 1.2, bike 56 and run 13.1 miles. I swore I wanted to accomplish this once in my life, and basically, I have.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Well, I have just crashed my browser about 7 times trying to upload pictures of our trip, so you will just have to take my word for it that it was beautiful and FANTASTIC!

Omar, myself, Christopher and Pam all headed to Geneva on June 20 for a drive to Chamonix, France and our start of the Tour de Mont Blanc. We trekked for 12 days and traveled completely around Mont Blanc, hiking from France into Italy, on to Switzerland and back to France. We would basically hike all morning to get to a mountain pass, sit at the top around 1:30 and eat lunch, then descend a few hours down to the next valley were we would find our luggage and a bed.

The views were simply spectacular and our guide and group of 10 was just as good as you could possibly hope for. All the other people were nice, some VERY funny, and our guide has been doing this for 20 years. I learned more about wildflowers, cows, and cheese than I ever thought I would. We all sang the graduation song as we returned to the spot we had started at 12 days before.

I will try to get some photos up and then try to jump start the basic daily nonsense of the Surly Crew. My half Ironman is at T minus 13 days. I am looking forward to regaining some semblance of my old life when I am no longer exercising for 3-5 hours out of each day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jimminy Crickets!

How busy can one little life get??? I gotta say, when my day is so full that I think of the post that I will write only to find that the day is too full to write it, THAT's when you know you are just too damn busy.

In the last few weeks we have had Mother's day, Omar and his mom's birthday, the twins birthday, our anniversary, endless miles on my bike, in my suit and in my running shoes, Omar's endless miles training for the Twin Cities Marathon, two jobs to tend to, and, oh yes, we also have 4 kids.

My Half Ironman is coming up on July 24th, and I am REALLLY looking forward to August. August is going to be so completely fantastic! No more race training, the work schedule will be calmer, my brother and his family will be here for 2 weeks, I will get up to the cabin, my wonderful friends the McClusky's and Gary might be here for a weekend. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

But let us not forget the 10th Anniversary trip that is just a mere 3 days away!!! Omar and I leave for 2 weeks to trek through the Alps sans children on Sunday, mad largely possible by the Grandma and Grandpa babysitting duo. My brother and his wife meet up with us in Geneva, and I might just explode with happiness/relief when my butt hits the airplane seat. Omar and I had to pay a babysitter just to carve out the time to hit REI for our gear shopping. At the risk of having the credit card company refuse the charges, we had a blast. Kids in a candy store, I tell ya.

So, that's the latest. Not really funny, or particularly interesting. But it is our life at this snapshot in time. And that's why we write it down, right?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And the verdict is...


Those three letters are the official opinion of the neuropsychologist that we enlisted to help us figure out what is so very different about how little Spence's mind seems to work.

Nonverbal Learning Disorder

In the 4 hours since hearing this professional opinion, here is what I understand. He can learn something when he hears it, but is very hampered if it is seen or by visual clues. This includes picking up on tone of voice, facial expression, body language, pictures. It's a processing problem that also hampers seeing "the big picture" of a situation or the organization/structure of your situation. It certainly fits. Rules of the Game, as outlined by his brothers in play, require a degree of structure he has trouble following... and when they get frustrated, he doesn't pick up on any of the non-verbal clues until they are yelling at him and kicking him out of the game. Tears follow, and complete confusion as to why he is, again, the victim of their mean behavior.

The good news? She said he tested out to have one of the highest memory scores she is ever seen, and he is very smart. His verbal learning is excellent.

Not sure whether I am happy or sad about all of this. It's something I know nothing about. No one wants their child to have "a disorder," but if it means I can now help him, then hallelujah!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Laundry math

So, as I stared at the mountain of laundry that was awaiting me today, I started wondering "How much laundry is there, really?"

Let's do the daily and weekly totals:

Socks: 12 (add 4 more given Omar and I are both working out daily) *7 = 112
Pants: 6 (plus 2 running shorts) *7 = 56
Shirts: 6 (plus 2) *7 = 56
Underwear: 6 *7 = 42
PJ bottoms: 4.2 (Omar and I don't need new PJ's daily...) *7 = 29.4
Assorted sweatshirts/jackets = 4 a week
Towels = 6 a week

Estimated number of items I wash, dry, fold and put away each week (barring any soccer games, spills, accidents or kids who just wanna put on a new outfit for no particularly good reason)?


Thursday, April 28, 2011


Ladies and gentlemen, Max can now ride a bike.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Best non-jews ever

Ah, Passover. That time when I observe the holiday in all of it's scheduling glory without actually observing the holiday. As I have said many times, every time they change an Ansari boy's diaper at the JCC they can tell we aren't in the tribe.

So, Leo has been home much of the week with me. I had to try to find kosher everything at the Super Target for the days he did go to school. But here is a little twist I didn't expect.

The big brothers, the ones now in secular school, were completely STOKED to have matzah in the house. The box, that used to be only half empty by the time I could finally send a delicious piece of leavened anything back to daycare, is now an item of great desire. They have emptied the one, and are now bummed that there is none to snack on.

With great sadness, they are now chewing on Cheez-its and Nutrigrain bars. Man, it is tough to be a kid around here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mr. Attention

We have been known to say that Spencer really would do better if he was an only child. He is the one most likely to crave love/hugs/attention/time/games/reading, etc. He is a very hands-on little dude. But, of all bitter ironies, not only is he one of 4 children, he is a twin. It's like the anti-matter to being an only child.

If the parents aren't available for this attention, the brothers are next in line. If they are happily doing something that holds very little interest for Spence, he will pester them just so he will be "included."

We have been trying to stress, for some time now, that there is a big difference between POSITIVE attention and NEGATIVE attention. Yes, having your brothers yell at you does count as getting their attention. But the long term consequences of this type of "inclusion" is not something we are really looking to explore.

But, he has found a great new buddy! His 2-year-old brother! looks up to his big brother, wants to play with Spence, wants to chase him around. But you know what gives you a 2-year-old's undivided attention? Take his stuff!

Take the toy he wants, and run the other way! You will have an unremitting (and unwitting) "playmate" for hours! He might even scream and yell, which is an added bonus.

Apparently, we need to keep working on this...

Monday, April 18, 2011

The biker

I am so very proud of Calvin. But I can't really show it.

Yesterday, after spending last year on training wheels and the last two weeks putzing around on a strider bike (a short two-wheeler without any peddles), Calvin declared he was ready for a real two wheeler. And wouldn't you know the child took about 10 minutes on a real 2 wheeler before he was completely whipping around the driveway. Done deal.

So, with that, one of my 5 1/2 year olds can now ride a bike. I barely touched him at all. No running behind the bike, hand on the seat, back hunched over to one side. One of our biker neighbors happened to be at our house when this inspiration hit, and gave Cal a few pointers to get him completely up and running, but that was it.

But here's the rub. Max, his 8 1/2 yr old brother, still hasn't conquered this beast. He still can't balance his bike. He is tall, lanky and much more likely to injure himself if he goes down - which he has done several times, adding to the trepidation. He has shed many a tear over this frustration, and has walked away from his downed bike countless times.

So, while I want to jump up and down for what Cal has accomplished, how do I give him the kudos without making big brother feel like garbage? That, my friends, is pesky.

Or maybe it is the motivation that will finally get this monkey off his back....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The solution

The solution to yesterday's troubles?

Well clearly, one just needs MORE children!

No, I'm not pregnant.

We survived last night by going to a neighbor's house and pooling our collective 7 children. (Having the adults watch Caddy Shack over thai food and beers didn't hurt either...). Then today, Cal is riding around on the driveway with his friend Maya, and Spence and Max are happily playing hide and seek with Dag, a friend from down the street. Everyone is happy! No one is whining! No one is hanging on my body!


Saturday, April 16, 2011


I am sitting alone in a coffee house because my children love me too much.

They hug me, touch me, climb on me, cling to my legs, want to read with me, want to follow me into the bathroom, swarm around me while I am in front of a dangerously hot stove making breakfast, interrupt me, ask me to play UNO, CandyLand, Sorry. They physically grapple for better position on or near me, teetering cup of hot coffee be damned.

I can't take all the love!

And Omar stands by, helpless to stem the mama onslaught. Try as he might, it comes to a point that I simply have to leave. I have to remove myself so they can find a harmonic balance of playing with each other, all whining and crying halted. The house, as I sit here in my temporary escapism, is, without a doubt, calmer and more peaceful than it has been all day.

It just seems so messed up sometimes...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

LIttle yellow spots

This is how I know that the boys have, yet again, tried their hand and standing while going to the bathroom.

And as long as I continue to see these spots on the toilet seat (blech!), I will continue to be the evil toilet dictator and insist that all people under the age of 22 sit down to pee.

What I don't understand is this. What is the complete and utter fascination with standing to pee? Is it really that great of an experience? Is this life pleasure one that 50% of the population are robbed of every single day? Do I just not get it? I mean, granted, I have never been given the option to have my own personal water gun while urinating, but seriously. I have played with water guns. They aren't that exciting.

Even Leo, who just started the process of even knowing what the toilet is for, is trying to get in the game. Nevermind that his necessary parts don't even approach the proper altitude. As with many things in Leo's world, being 2 is a simple inconvenience that isn't about to slow him down.

So when my boys grow up to be labeled nancy-boys for sitting down to pee, I guess they can take it up with their therapists. Or, just stop peeing on the seat. That would work too.

Friday, January 28, 2011

They just can't get enough of us...

Usually I blog around 5:30 when all the cases are done and we have wrapped things up for the night. It's currently 7:45pm, and we still aren't done. They don't need me in the OR because the case we currently have is so sick she needs two surgeons... But, let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.

We started the day with our 6:30am walk again today, but this time we went to the river instead of the mountain. The walk was a fabulous dichotomy of beautiful and ugly. The streets are filled with delightful people staring at us and waving. The walk had to take a slight detour when we had to negotiate around a man sitting in the path butchering a cow with a machete. Lots of people were standing around, talking, waiting for their piece. I have pictures for those who are brave enough to look.

The path to the river was through banana trees and planted fields with gorgeous mountain scenery all around. The path itself was bordered the entire length in a 3 foot pile of trash. Some burning, some not. Goats and pigs grazing on it. Women at the riverside were doing laundry and cleaning themselves... we did not touch the water, of course, given that this could also be called 'cholera central.'

We got back, had some breakfast, and started with what was supposed to be a quick, 'wrap it up' kind of day. One hysterectomy, one hydrocele (that I actually performed), two hernias, a breast fibroadenoma, and a few lumps and bumps seen in clinic. We heard just before lunch that there was an appendicitis in clinic, so he would be an add-on.

After lunch, the drama began. The appy was a 70 year-old man. He signed his consent in the OR and then had his spinal anesthesia. This is when we learned the people who came with him weren't his family (as previously believed), and they were insisting we don't operate. You see, here there is no food service. This is no significant nursing. So you have to have someone who stays with you and brings you food and water, someone who will take you home. And the people screaming outside the OR said they wouldn't and that we were just going to kill him on our table.

Well, then it turns out they are his neighbors. They don't want to get in trouble if something bad were to happen, so that is why they were refusing care. Since they weren't family,AND none could be found, AND the man was going to die without surgery, we went forward (his own consent not being worth much).

This is when Leslie comes into the OR and announces that over in clinic, a woman who had had an abortion yesterday came into clinic bleeding. They attempted a D&C (uterus clean out) in clinic, but instead ended up with small intestine coming out of her vagina. And we only have one OR that can do these serious cases.

So, we dive into the appendicitis case at 2:30pm hoping it goes quickly, knowing the woman could go south very quickly. Steve and I got into his belly, and it initially looked like a ruptured appy that has been there for a while. Lots of scarring, lots of nasty looking tissue... but then we found ourselves inside the cecum, i.e. into open bowel. After looking around some more, it turns out he has metastatic colon cancer that had ruptured. We end up having to widen his incision and do a right colon removal (i.e not quick at all). By the time we have his colon out, his bowel put back together, remove another met that is about to perforate, and sew him back up, it's 6pm.

Needless to say, laying in a hospital in Haiti with intestines hanging out of your vagina for 4 hours isn't really good for a person. Steve and Leslie got into her belly to find a hole in the top of the uterus from the botched abortion/D&C, and 5 feet of dead small intestine (half in, half out). They have just about wrapped up the bowel repair as I type this. Then they will begin her hysterectomy. She has 5 kids. Her husband is out of the country right now.

So, we finish with a bang. And tomorrow we hand off these super sick patients to the incoming team from North Memorial with a piece of paper handed off at the airport in Cap Haitian. We still have the seizure lady, who still doesn't recognize family members but does recognize our interpreter. There is the guy who has his suprapubic catheter and will just wait for the urologist to come fix his prostate. And lord only know what could happen in the next twelve hours before we leave.

But, what I do know is that this is my last post from down here. I will wrap this up, check the OR, and start packing. Thanks to all of you for your well wishes and good thoughts. Steve summed this whole week up with 4 statements: 1) I love it, 2) I hate it, 3) I want to come back, 4) I never want to come back.

Au revoir.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I spoke too soon again....

Ah, just when you think it is safe to blog, something goes all crazy on you.

Last night, after blogging and heading to dinner, we were sitting around chatting when a person started yelling into the dining building. Translation? "One of the hysterectomy patients is seizing." Well, that's not good. So the table emptied as we all ran back to the hospital.

By the time we get there, the seizing has stopped, but she is laying there largely unconscious. We put one of our portable oxygenation monitors on her - 65%. You really want to see above 94%. So, you say, put her on O2. Well, we don't really have any, per se. The only O2 tank is in the operating room. And the bed she is on doesn't fit through the door. We do have an oxygen concentrator, but that only got her up to mid 80's. Usually after a seizure, you are out of it for a bit, but then you come back around. That was not happening.

So, we got a cart, carried her by her sheet out the door (of a room that has 4 people and all their families in it), and take her back to the OR for O2. Thankfully, that got her up to 100%. Meanwhile you have 4 MDs and 2 anesthetists trying to figure out why she seized. Does she have an unknown seizure disorder? No. Does she drink and lot and is withdrawing? No. Could she have low sodium, low calcium, or low magnesium? Your guess is as good as mine, seeing as how we don't have any way to test for that. So we replaced all of them. She had had surgery under spinal marcaine, a bit of versed and she got the wound injected with Marcaine as well. None of these were at doses that should cause anything close to seizures. She then seized 2 more times without coming out of it in between, officially putting her in status epilepticus. Thankfully we had IV Versed, then found some valium to break the seizure. But she still was completely out of it.

In the US, we would intubate her. Here? There are no ventilators, so if you get tubed, someone sits there all night and bags her. That someone would be me. Thankfully she kept breathing on her own. We would also give IV seizure meds. None here. So we placed a tube in her stomach, confirmed it's placement only by listening, and poured phenobarbitol liquid down it. When she still wasn't coming around, we wondered if she had had a head bleed (and just our bad luck to be her surgeons that day). But, her lumbar puncture showed no blood, and when she did move, she moved equally on both sides... another theory blown.

By 9pm, we started setting up for shifts to watch her throughout the night. Since the surgeons and the anesthetists should be awake (preferably), Yvonne and I said we would do it. I went to bed until 1am, and was going to take the 1am-6am shift. At 12:30am, Yvonne came to our room and told me she had come around, had good oxygenation on room air, was recognizing family and was back in her room. Today, she has been groggy all day, but able to answer questions.

So good doctor, you say, why did she seize? I have no flippin' idea. Will she do it again tonight. Well, tune in tomorrow to find out.

Today was hyterectomies, hernias, hydroceles and lipomas. The funniest story was the guy I was examining in clinic for scrotal swelling. I was trying to determine if this swelling would go back into the abdomen (hernia) or stay in the scrotum (hydrocele). I started to gently squeeze the area to see. He moved my hands, and I was afraid I had hurt him. But instead, he knew exactly what I was doing and showed me his party trick. He pushed the whole thing between his legs, squeezed them together with great force, and with a strange sucking sound, the swelling disappeared, and he opened his legs with a great smile to show a normal scrotum. As Leslie says, this is Haiti.

Last day tomorrow. Mostly little surgeries because we don't want to leave major recovery in our wake. There are many abandoned children here, 9 of which have major medical problems (CP, MR, developmental delay), and 4 of which are delightful and healthy. Givenson turns 8 tonight, so we are wrapping up some clothes, toys and shoes for his birthday. Luvins (4), Reece (5?) and Shebani (3) take turns sitting on our laps and getting hugs. They are a joy to have around as I miss my own little ones. Soon I will be giving them hugs too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Long day in the OR

Well, the good new today is that no one died. I will say that in jest at home, but here? It is actually a good way to measure the day.

We started the day off with a 6am sunrise hike up the nearest "mountain." I have definitely learned I need to do more climbing before my anniversary trip to the Alps this summer! After walking through a garbage heap, a neighborhood, then straight up (not a switch back to be found), we got to watch the sun rise while listening to many woman chant their songs to god. It was a really beautiful way to start the day.

Once we got to the hospital, Yvonne and I checked on all the post-op patients while the surgeons started taking in the new patients. One man with a hernia repair from yesterday was having terrible urinary retention. Using the ultrasound we brought with us, we were able to see that his bladder was up to his belly button. Our 3 tries at a urinary catheter were unsuccessful due to a whopping prostate. He ended up in the OR for a catheter that passes through the abdominal wall (with none of the usual tools we usually need), but that clotted off and was back for a re-do by lunchtime. Yvonne and Steve were finally able to find a stray guide-wire, sterilize it, pass that into the bladder through a needle, dilate the hole and then pass a catheter that finally had good flow. We lost a lot of time on other cases, but finally, this man can rest. (and come back next week to have his prostate worked on...)

We had 3 hysterectomies, and a few hernias. The scheduled c-section was here earlier than really needed, so she was sent home for another week. I saw a pair of 3 month-old twins that mom was concerned about them having tight foreskins. No biggy. I talked her through the treatment at home. The incredible thing about these twins were that they born at home, the first at midnight, the next at 10pm. 22 hours in between. Good. God.

I got to be a plastic surgeon as well, removing a fatty tumor from a young woman's face. That was rewarding. The case of the day that took the cake was the hydrocele. It was an older man, with one year history of swelling in the right scrotum. The fluid bag we drained measured 1700cc. That is just a swig shy of a two liter bottle of coke. Can you imagine carrying that around in half of your scrotum every day? He will be a very happy camper once he can feel the lower half of his body again.

In a perfect picture of how things get done in Haiti, we couldn't start our last case of the day because the scrub nurse had decided to get in line to be seen by the dentist who is with us (the OB, Leslie's, husband). We had to send someone to go get her back. Another staff member was yelling at the head of the hospital because she felt she should be paid double because another person didn't come to work. As Leslie says as she shrugs her shoulders "This is Haiti."

I am certainly feeling the tug of home. The only thing I'm not starting to miss is the weather! I want to hug those adorable little boys of mine and the big one too. But, that will have to wait. We already have a full schedule for tomorrow including some cases that were bumped from today.

Thanks for all the good thoughts and notes! I have read every one of them. Don't be shy!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 4

Well, here I am again. Bonsoir from Haiti. We are still well and happy and getting a bit more tired and bit more sore in the legs and backs. Cement floor tend to wear on you after a number of hours/days. Today had many aspects that already felt like business as usual. 3 hysterectomies, 3 hernias, 2 hydrocele repairs. Same view in the morning - a line of people waiting to see if they will get in to see the "blancs."

The baby from yesterday died during the night. He was so sick, and I knew dying was very possible, but that doesn't mean you don't hope for the best. I hoped we had swooped in and righted his ship, but to no avail. His mother is already dead from cholera, dad lives in the Dominican Republic. The lady here with him was dad's aunt. She leaves with his body, on her own to deal with the burial.

One thing that is throwing me off quite a bit is the advanced state people have progressed to before they get here. Of course I knew that was going to be the case, but by definition that means these are cases unlike anything I have ever seen in the states. The man with one testicle three times it's normal size and firm? Cancer? Don't know. Come back and see the urologist next week (and walk for a few hours again?). The man with the mass protruding from his cheek that was reaching the size of a grapefruit? Cancer? Benign? How do I know? No one in the states would let a mass GET this big. Go to Cap Haitian because you will need a facial surgeon. The woman with the mass in her right breast the size of a kiwi? We'll find out tomorrow when we do her likely mastectomy.

in the morning, one of the Haitian residents came running to our clinic asking if there was anything we had to offer the old woman with the "grade 3 tumor in her head." They had already given her mannitol (emergent treatment for severe brain swelling). I have NOTHING to offer, nor did anyone with us. Let's say I did jump in and try to be superman... the end result is no better. We later went to clinic to see if there was anything to help with, and there was the body, head wrapped with a blood soaked bandage, waiting for family to come pick it up.

Yvonne had a clinic case yesterday of a 5-day-old home born baby who arrived with a meningocele (a fluid sac at the base of the back filled with spinal fluid and sometimes cord) leaking spinal fluid onto the exam table. Meningitis in inevitable. We told them to hold him, love him and go home. They were going to try to make it to the Dominican, but there is very little hope.

On the flip side, I got to feel right at home with the retained nail in the leg for the past year. Numb it, make your incision, pull it out and bandage it up. THAT I know how to deal with. And the patient and the daughter were so thankful you would think I had performed a miracle! They sang and raised their hands to the heavens. At least for that moment, for those women, I had made a real difference.

My overall reaction to all of this is very dichotomous. At times, I feel like we are doing so much. At other times? Soooooo little. I can't help more than half of the people I am telling you about. And when you see how many people are here and how sick some of them are, you just feel like you are addressing one grain of sand on a whole beach. It is disheartening at times. But, we do what we can, right? It' s better than if no one was here. But it is also very humbling. I'm no hero. I'm not feeling like I'm changing the world. But, I guess changing the world isn't the goal.

We all continue to be well. Kisses to all.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I spoke too soon...

This post ain't short. Grab a beverage and stay a while...

Well, it initially seemed like my post yesterday was a pretty good summary. The only real action that wasn't captured was the scraping of a courtyard's walls to prepare for a new coat of paint and then dinner. We were all nestling down for a book or cribbage last night. But then we got the early introduction to the OR.

The Canadian MD, Brian, came rushing into our building around 8pm to announce we had just received 3 gunshot wound patients. And no, he wasn't just pulling our chains. We all changed clothes and ran to the hospital. Security was trying to keep 20-30 family and friends out of the "triage" area (read: room with 4 tables in it). None of them hostile, all just concerned. One man was shot in the belly, the other through the arm and a third on the jawline. The two surgeons and Yvonne (the other ER MD) tended to the belly guy, and I was covering the others. The arm was a through and through, minimal bleeding. He got a bandage (strip of old sheeting) and 10 ibuprofen. Thanks for stopping by.

The man with the shot to the jaw was standing in the middle of the room, looking the complete picture of health. He had what looked like a grazing wound to the left jaw line. But he kept telling me his back hurt. He guided my hand to just inside his left scapula. And that is where I could feel the bullet under the skin. This was later confirmed by his otherwise normal chest xray. The bullet had passed into the skin of the jaw line, through the neck, through the trapezius muscle and down the soft tissues of the back. No broken bones, no popped lung, no significant swelling in the neck (ie he missed his carotid and jugular). I stitched him up and he also left with 10 ibuprofen. Completely insane.

While I was doing this, they were finding the 3rd man to have a hole in his stomach and uncontrolled pooling of blood in the abdomen. They patched and looked for the bleeder. Family gave blood (there is no blood bank). But just as the first unit was ready, they found the source of all the trouble. He had a large hole in the inferior vena cava (for those of you not medically inclined, that would be the main vein that returns all blood from the bottom of the body back to the heart). It was a fatal injury. They could finally see the hole because the man was largely out of blood to bleed.

So, we all piled into bed last night at 11pm feeling like we had already worked a full day.

After sleeping MUCH better than the first night, we rose to a hospital lined up with patients for our team. They had all been told to return today to be seen by the surgeons. We went into clinic, which could best be described as a basement utility room with an examination table from 1963. For expediency, I am going to list the people I saw today. Realize, this is not for the faint of heart:

1) Older woman sent for removal of her uterus due to fibroids. Unfortunately, what she actually has is metastatic uterine cancer. Surgery would hasten her death. She was sent home with 10 ibuprofen (are you seeing a theme?).

2) Younger woman, sent for removal of her fibroids. She was examined in the same gown and on the same sheet as #1, as were all the following patients. She was worried about not having periods again because all the blood would build up inside her. She was reassured, and she was the first case of the day. (She is resting comfortably now. I was 1st assist on the case. In case you are wondering what we use to scrub before becoming "sterile" for surgery? Palmolive dish soap).

3) An older man with an enlarged prostate with urinary catheter already in place. He likely has prostate cancer. He was started in antibiotics and told to come back next week when the urologist will be here.

4) Same story as #2

5) An older man with what appeared to be an incarcerated right groin hernia. In the OR Dr. Mestitz actually found a hydrocele and other fun I don't entirely understand. But he's doing ok.

6) An 8 year old boy with a hernia. We told mom to wait until he was older, and she was fine with that.

7) A man with pain with swallowing for 5 years. We didn't have anything surgical to offer.

8) A husband and wife with matching hernias. They are both recovering as I type this.

9) A couple more prostate patients. Same story as #3.

Before lunch, Brian asked Yvonne and I to come look at a kid on the cholera ward. He has been in the hospital for 5 days. The cholera has passed, but he is looking sicker today. We get there and he looks profoundly dehydrated with breathing very poorly. We learn that yesterday he had seemed "congested" and the nurse (and some MD? There are resident haitian doctors here) had given this 10 pound 9- month-old 20mg of IV lasix and then taken out his IV. That is an extremely potent diuretic in an adult. It also can cause very low potassium levels. We started a new IV in the boy's neck and started fluids again. Before our eyes he looked better. I have no way to check his potassium... We give the cholera oral rehydration liquid and hope.

After lunch, I went to the general walk-in clinic to help out. Again, here's a list:

1)****Warning**** This is the worst. First guy I see? He is ~24 years old, scorching fever and says he has pain in his stomach and genitals for 2 WEEKS. He undresses and has a gangrenous penis with fully infected scrotum. He very likely is going to die. I don't have a surgeon who can do what he needs. He gets 2 injections of antibiotics (drawn up and injected by yours truly with one needle) and a shot of pain medicine (same needle), and is carried away by his family to get in a car and head to Cap Haitian where the might be able to save him.

2) high blood pressure check
3) wound check for machete to the toe
4) recheck of a broken finger with k-wires in place (there was an orthopedic doctor here 3 weeks ago).
5) A swollen leg from a bandage tied to tight this morning after his motorcycle accident.
6) An old man with chronic wounds on his ankle. Bandage and hope. Chances they will get more infected and kill him? Pretty good.
7) others I can't remember.

Needless to say, I am tired and a little blown away. I feel we can offer so much, but at the same time so little. I need to give up the computer, but I will try to keep it shorter tomorrow. We are all doing well, and looking forward to dinner! Our thoughts are will all you back home!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 2

Well, it's only 2pm, but I don't know when I'll be on the computer again.

Sleep last night was, well, noisy. I had pictured the hospital being in the middle of nowhere, but we are smack in Limbe, which is a bustling town. Our house (cement floor, stucco walls, screens but no windows, tin roof) is close enough to the one road paved road that there were sounds of horns (usually honked for little reason I can find) throughout the night. I have also learned that roosters do not wait until dawn to crow. It's more like 4am, and they continue until about 7am.

We all had breakfast in the dining building. A few Haitian ladies are employed by the organization to feed all the hospital staff and volunteers. I may actually gain weight in Haiti, which seems twisted. After breakfast we headed back into Limbe to walk around. The people are very nice. First, it's staring and pointing. Then some giggling. If we say "bonjour" and wave, they return it and smile.

Church was the event of the morning for Limbe. In our loop around "town" there were 4 churches (One adventist, one Catholic, one Baptist, one unknown). The witch doctor's office is right next to the hospital, so we have that covered as well. You would not believe the absolute finery that is worn to church. Think of the fanciest dresses you see for little girls at Target. Frilly, shiny shoes, boys in suit pants and ties, men in full suits. The women! Beautiful clothes, hats, HEELS (on the dirt, rock and mud puddle roads). Many many people dressed in brilliantly white clothes, perfectly pressed.

Contrast that to the underlying scene. There is no plumbing. No sewage system. People urinate in the trees, or by the side of the road. There is no electricity, but you can find cell phone stations at the market to buy minutes as you can afford them. Cell phones are not rare. Grains are seen laying out on sheets on the paths to dry out... but you can have the little problem of the dog urinating in the middle of it like we saw this morning. Trenches can be found with rancid water and the trash is pretty much everywhere. There is no garbage system. Refuse goes pretty much wherever.

We are highly pampered in the compound with running cold water, toilets and trashcans (can't really tell you where any of it goes...). I have a bed, a pillow, and a ceiling fan! I am in shorts and sweating while outside, so that seems luxurious by any Minnesota standard!

Tomorrow we will start the surgical week. I am here with an OB/Gyn, a general surgeon, 2 nurse anesthetists and another ER doctor. The schedule is full all week for surgical cases. We will check them out in the morning, then the surgeons will start and I will take care of them as they recover as well as get the next patients ready to go. At least that's what I think I'll be doing. Tomorrow's message will tell you the reality.

To my family - thanks for the messages left. I will see if I can get into my email as well. I hope I haven't left you in the lurch too much! Thanks for letting me be away to do this. I miss you all very much.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Home sweet Haiti

We are safe and sound on the ground in Limbe! The plane trip from Miami to Cap Haitian was smooth as can be. They hadn't loaded any luggage on the plane (that's right, ANY), so we waited at the airport for the next plane 45 minutes later. Thankfully everything was on it (it was the only other flight for the day), and we all piled into the van.

The road trip was very bumpy and quite a quick snapshot of the poverty that is around us. The earthquake didn't really affect this area - we are pretty far north and the epicenter was at Port au Prince on the southern half. But, the amount of crumbled buildings just from decay is still profound. We got to the hospital compound an hour later, unpacked, had some lunch (very yummy), took a tour of the hospital and then went for a walk through the market.

It was an extremely crowded circle of booths and vending stations selling, beans, tomatoes, underwear, soda, shrimp, dried fish, chicken feet, greens, soap, pharmacy mystery pills, water, oil, shirts, skirts and other necessities. We heard a lot of "blanc" as we walked through. Though we certainly stick out like a sore thumb, the market is very near the hospital compound, so the locals seem to know who we are and why we are here.

We will start work on Monday, though the cholera unit is running 24/7. The numbers are down right now (only 7 patients) and there is a full time MD from Canada covering that. For now, we are acclimating.

Love to you all! I am very well. For me, the only real worry was getting here. So, that is done! I will try to keep things up to date!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Leaving on a prop plane...

T minus 7 hours. Sitting in the Miami hotel trying to convince myself I'm sleepy even though it's only 8pm at home. We leave for the airport at 4:30am (ie 3:30 at home).

Just had dinner with the crew and am so excited to get started. It is so clear that anything we can do to help is so much more than they have. We are the first surgical crew to be at the hospital in 6 months! There will be a line of patients waiting for us Monday morning. We will do 8-10 cases a day. My roll will be triage and post-anesthesia care, though the MD who is leading us said the best approach is No Expectations. We will do whatever needs to be done. She said to expect at least one death, and the orphanage is so heartbreaking (all disabled kids, CP, incontinence, MR) that we may not be able to stomach it.

Tomorrow will be getting settled and taking it all in. I'll post when I can. It may be more for me than anyone else...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And on a serious note...

This blog is about to take a serious turn to a different theme. The antics of the crazy A boys will be on temporary hiatus as this becomes the journal for my medical mission trip to Haiti. I leave tomorrow for Cap Haitian, then a quick car ride over to Limbe.

If you want to check out where I will be, link to

Feel free to leave me comments. The internet may be my only form of communication to the states. For good or bad, I am sure I will have lots to write about!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Boy update

It's time for one of those snapshots in time where I can look back and see what my boys were all about back in the beginning of 2011.

Max (8yr old) - You continue to be a very heart-felt and empathetic person. You LOVE hugs from your littlest brother and get a little hurt if he doesn't want your affection in a moment of 2yr old defiance. You are still having a bear of a time with your spelling homework and I try to fight the natural pattern I fall into of getting crabby at you when you appear to give up on it. You are the team leader of the shenanigans that go on around here, and it is difficult when you brothers want to take their own turn and making up the rules of a game. But, with some encouragement, you are OK with it. When it comes right down to it, you are a very adaptable little man. I love you so much.

Spencer (5 and a half) - You are my incredibly loving and emotional little imp. The daily tribulations that used to turn you into a puddle of frustration (like putting on your socks if they were for some reason being difficult) aren't nearly as bothersome to you as they used to be. If I say no to something, you have grown up to the point that you can say "Ok mom" and TRULY be ok. Your devilish little smile can crack my heart open wide. Color by number is a current passion, though anything can wait if Phineus and Ferb is on TV. Your favorite snack is a pickle, or a bowl of cherry tomatoes. Apple slices will do in a pinch. Your favorite place in the world is still hanging from my body. I love you so much.

Calvin - (5 and a half) Whatever you do in this life, it will be with great determination and focus. You can be such a little goofball, but if you have something in mind, you will continue towards your goal come hell or high water. Unfortunately, the flip side of this is a strong leaning towards stubbornness, which I have to say you came by honestly from me. You DO NOT like being rushed or being told what to do... which is a bit of a tough road as a 5yr old. You love to read with us and are very interested in starting to read yourself. You love watching Max doing his homework, wishing you had some too. I love you so much.

Leo (2yrs old) - Oh, my little baby man. You think you are hilarious. You also think you are at least 5 years old if not older. Whatever your brothers are doing, you are right along side, not at all aware that you are limited by age and size. You love to dance, try to make us laugh, and snuggle up with us. You have really turned on the "mommy mommy mommy" lately. That includes who you want to change your diaper, so Dad doesn't get a complete bum deal. You have to have your stinky blanket shoved in your mouth to sleep, and you are showing similar focus to Calvin, especially if it involves your shoelaces. I love you so much.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Well, that was a whole lot of fun

The madness that is the Ansari love of skiing officially has two new initiates. After a fun (and work packed) X-mas season, we packed up the bags, tossed the baby boy off to my parents, and headed to Truckee, CA to our dear friends' parents home. Matt, Megan and their two awesome kids Casey and Claire hosted a fantastic week of powder filled madness, the first of many for Cal and Spence.

All 5 kids took 3 days of lessons (except for the one pukey day for Claire... boo) while the adults gave themselves daily reminders that we just aren't 20 anymore. It snowed an amazing 20 inches during the second night, and we headed out like kids to a candy store. After our first run, the legs were screamin', the bodies were covered in the snow from multiple major diggers, and the sweat was pouring under our pile. It got easier as the day went on, and we finished the day feeling great. Northstar is a really nice mountain.

The nights were filled with hot tubbin, Highlights-and-Lowlights, giggles and games. When it came time to ski with the kids, they amazed us with their new skills. It's fascinating how the personality of the kid comes through. Cal skis exactly how they taught him, with meticulous attention to his snowplow form and beautiful little S turns. He is in control at all times, proud of his precision. Spence is like a little maniac, skiing with his skis in parallel at all times, slowing down with one turn that either finishes with a full 360 spin or a wipeout. Either way, he smiles and starts bombing it again.

Cal, Claire, Spence, Max and Casey (boys sporting post-hot tub mohawks)

Final Hot Cocoa

We did finish with a flourish when we awoke to a snow storm and news that I-80 to the airport was requiring chains on all vehicles that didn't have 4-wheel drive (i.e. our rental car). Omar and Matt were casing gas stations at 6:30am, found a pair, came home, found out they were the wrong size, returned with all of us in tow, bought the second pair (and no, they don't take returns on the ones they sold you 15 minutes ago) and put them on. All of this before 7:15am. Yippee! That's the way to wrap things up! We made our flight home, and now all are in bed.

Thanks Matt and Megan (and family!). We had a total blast. Next year, 4-wheel drive!